Even though my four grandparents are no longer with us, there is no shortage of triggers that keep their spirit alive through a flood of great memories. Those reminders seem to present themselves daily, whether in the way I cough that sounds like my paternal grandfather or in the way I blow my nose that reminds me of my maternal grandfather. More recently, there is also a certain way that my cat Ivy replies to a question, in a very soft meow, which sounds just like my maternal grandmother’s inflection.
In those moments, I really miss them.
Even though specific childhood memories with my grandparents get a little foggier over time, they remain fond ones. In particular, when my parents wanted a bit of grown-up time whether for a day of skiing or a weekend getaway, I would get dropped off at my maternal grandparents’ house where music, laughs and good times were in limitless supply. Having been the only grandchild on that branch of the family tree for a good 16 years, there was lots of play time, talk time and time to share with my grandparents, aunts, uncles and extended family. As much as they say it takes a village to raise a child, I could not have asked for better.
I will be forever grateful to my grandmother who always seemed to be happy to have me over, even if it meant getting out of bed early to greet me at the door in her nightgown and robe on a cold Sunday morning. I fondly remember precious chats with her over hot chocolate, while the rest of the family slept in, then getting whisked off to church for the 10:00 service. I admit I was a pretty quiet little kid when it came to church, but my worst sin was letting my wet winter boots drip on the kneeling bench and my grandmother magically pulling out of her purse tissue after tissue, like a magician, to mop up my mess. Yet I still remember getting rewarded with a Caramilk bar at the candy store on the way home, for being good.
My paternal grandparents lived several hour away, so our relationship was based on annual visits and long distance calls. It is sad we did not have more contact, but we made it work. I remember my grandfather as a strong, proud, dignified man and my grandmother as having the biggest heart in the world, and missing me terribly due to distance between us, often smothering me with kisses throughout our visits.
Throughout my childhood, the four grandparents were a source of unconditional love, strength and my deep admiration. I may not have fully known or appreciated the journeys they lived, but now that I am approximately the same age that they were when I was born, I certainly appreciate the badges that they earned, living through the depression and the adversity that they had known. Even though I was a bit young to understand those factors, there was never a doubt in my mind that my grandparents were VIPs.
In my late teens and early 20’s, I admit that my friends, my studies and getting my career launched occupied a lot of my time but I still very much enjoyed the connection we maintained. I hope I made up for it in my 30’s when I had the mobility and time to spend more time with them again.
Television programming like TLC’s “Who Do You Think You Are” and PBS’s “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr” explore the family history of celebrities, to really fascinating results. At the end of each program, I cannot help but wish my grandparents were still here so that I could call them up and get a few more stories from our own family history.
As the years go by, I seem to miss them more and more and deeply appreciate what they brought to my life. I often long for another chance to hug them and tell them how much they are loved. Perhaps it is my subconscious responding when they periodically make appearances in my dreams at night, opportunities that bring me great comfort and the chance to check in with them, even if just for a fleeting moment.
I am very lucky that they were all with us into their 80’s and 90’s, not just because it bodes well for me genetically to potentially live that long, but to have known them that long for the wonderful people that they were.
On this Grandparents’ Day, if your grandparents are still with you, be sure to call them, hug them, tell them how much you love them on behalf of those of us who don’t have that privilege anymore.
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